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Senator Robert Singer

Senator Bob Singer

Singer Bill to Help Battle Opioid Overdose Epidemic Passes Health Committee

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Legislation sponsored by Senator Robert Singer that would help local officials to better understand and prevent the circumstances that lead to fatal drug overdoses has been approved by the Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee.

The Senate Health Committee has approved Sen. Bob Singer’s legislation to help local officials better understand and prevent the circumstances that lead to fatal drug overdoses. (©iStock)

“The opioid epidemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen, and we continue to lose lives to overdose at a sickening pace,” said Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean). “We’ve learned that there is no simple fix that will stop this. We need to bring together experts from many fields to develop a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to both deter and treat drug abuse before it’s too late.”

Singer’s legislation, S-2929, requires the Commissioner of Health to establish local drug overdose fatality teams for each county of the state.

Under the bill, the local drug overdose fatality teams are to consist of experts in the fields of health, social services, law enforcement, education, emergency medicine, mental health, juvenile delinquency, and drug and alcohol abuse.

The legislation requires the Commissioner to develop a mandatory drug overdose death reporting process within the Department of Health to which health care practitioners, medical examiners, hospitals, emergency medical service providers, local health departments, law enforcement agencies, substance use disorder treatment programs, and relevant social services agencies will be required to report to confidentially report on individual cases of drug overdose death.

The Department would then forward the reported information to the local drug overdose fatality review team assigned to the county in which the drug overdose death occurred.

The bill provides that each local drug overdose fatality review team is to: (1) develop methods to help prevent drug overdoses; (2) explore methods to promote cooperation among multi-disciplinary agencies in providing services to individuals with substance use disorders; (3) develop an understanding of the causes of drug overdoses; (4) recommend possible changes to law and policy to prevent drug overdoses; and (5) meet at least quarterly to review drug overdose cases submitted to the Commissioner, as well as available criminal, educational substance abuse, and mental health records of the deceased individuals.

“We’ve come to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to battling the epidemic of overdoses just doesn’t work,” added Singer. “The population in Ocean County, for example, is much different than that in Hudson or Sussex counties. We have a diverse variety of communities, law enforcement challenges, and social services that are available in different parts of the State. It makes sense to bring experts together at the county level to develop targeted local plans to help bring our opioid crisis under control.”

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